Apr 28, 2022 | Carpet One Floor & Home
The saying “it’s all black and white” implies simplicity that borders on basic, but when it comes to interior design and decor, a black and white color palette is anything but boring.
Black and white provide the ultimate in versatility, taking your interiors from fresh and airy to bold and dramatic simply by shifting the saturation of each hue. This palette is versatile and easily adaptable, with the ability to jump between styles and eras with ease. Some would even say that black and white are more than just colors—they are a motif in their own right.
So how do you ensure your black-and-white interior doesn’t land in dreaded “basic” or boring territory? Before we dig in, let’s clarify one thing: despite my references to them as “colors,” black and white are technically not representatives of the rainbow at all. Without getting too deep in the weeds, colors contain wavelengths. White contains all wavelengths, whereas black is the absence of visible light. With that out of the way, here are some of my favorite ways to make a black-and-white palette shine.
Black and white might seem limited at first glance, but there are different degrees, shades, and tones of each. These are not true black and white but are tinged with a rainbow of other hues. Consider black with midnight blue or eggplant undertones, or white with a barely there whisper of cream or pink. You can bring depth to basic black and white by layering different tones and shades within the space, similar to the principles of layering texture and finish. Just pay attention to the “temperature” and stay consistent: cool with cool whites and, warm with warm whites. By juxtaposing warm tones with cool ones, you can compromise the color, making some blacks appear blue or brown, or some whites appear yellow.
We’ve already briefly mentioned texture and finish, so let’s continue on this track. Glossy surfaces reflect light, amplifying it in a space. Meanwhile, matte finishes absorb light, creating a warm, velvety effect. Although white is white, combining a high-gloss white with a matte one brings depth to your space without having to stray from your monochromatic color palette.
When designing a black-and-white room, I apply the same rule of proportions that I use when going full color. It’s the 60-30-10rule, and it actually works.
First, choose your principal color–in this case, black or white. While white rooms are more common and less risky, a black room can be rewarding if you’re looking to make a bold statement. In any case, your principal color will be the main one, occupying approximately 60 percent of your space. This usually includes large-scale elements, such as the walls and floors.
If you choose white as your principal color, then black is the secondary color, which accounts for 30 percent of the space. This may include a feature wall, a rug and a sofa.
Last but not least, the remaining 10 percent is your accent color because even a black-and-white room needs a pop of color. This pop can appear in accessories, accent pillows and throws, and even small furniture items, like an ottoman or a painted side table. Because accessories are easy and economical to replace and trends come and go, this last 10 percent can satisfy your cravings for the trend du jour without going all in or spending a small fortune.
For me I enjoy designing with black and white. They may be polar opposites but the end game is perfect harmony. Although classic by all accounts, a black-and-white color palette is modern and timeless all at once. Here’s to simplicity at its best!
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Design by JENNIFER BACKSTEIN Photography by MIKE CHAJECKI
Jennifer Backstein is the creative director and principal designer of Jennifer Backstein Interiors based in Toronto. With a vast experience in all aspects of interior design, art, and construction, Jennifer has been designing spaces for over a decade. She prides herself on creating beautiful spaces that blend her client's unique vision with JBI's signature aesthetic, which is warm, inviting and luxurious.